Media and film studies

Media Histories and Cultural Change

Module code: 874P4
Level 7 (Masters)
30 credits in spring teaching
Teaching method: Seminar
Assessment modes: Coursework

This module explores key changes in the media over the past 120 years and how these have both reflected and shaped our cultural life in profound ways. 

By focusing on the emergence of 'new' media, such as radio and cinema in the early 20th century, television in the later 20th century and the internet on the eve of the 21st century, the module looks at key transitional moments in electronic media forms. It assesses how these media were the products of the cultural life of the time and how they subsequently enriched or, arguably, damaged this broader culture. 

The module is arranged in three sections that:

  1. Explores the emergence of broadcasting and cinema between the 1890s and the 1930s, and discusses them in the context of new ideas in America and Europe about communication, mass culture and social psychology, and in the context of new artistic ideas such as modernism.
  2. Explores the rise and spread of television between the 1940s and the 1990s, and discusses it in the context of wider debates about visual culture, the consumer society, the Cold War, the witnessing of global media events, national identity and globalisation
  3. Tackles the spread since the 1990s of internet and social media, discussing them in the context of fierce international debates about the changing nature of knowledge and literacy and in particular the alleged creation of a 'distracted' mindset and a superficial and banal popular culture 

In drawing on specific case studies at each stage, the module aims to enhance your skills in using historical evidence, including written and audio-visual archives and oral history testimony, to develop arguments about media.

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate critical awareness of the key chronology - and processes - of change in the electronic mass media since the late-19th Century.
  • Critical evaluation of the broader cultural contexts which have shaped media shifts and which have, in turn, been shaped in part by media.
  • Undertake self-directed research combining a use of primary source material with the theoretical insights of media studies to produce written work that is historically informed.
  • Show an ability to identify and address an appropriate question and present material and arguments to a high standard.